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Cricket : West Indies must use momentum for qualifiers and beyond

Source: Jamaica Gleaner

THE 2023 ICC Men’s World Cup qualifiers begin today, promising to provide drama, intrigue and excitement in equal measure. Ten teams will lock horns for the two remaining spots at the 2023 ODI World Cup, which will be played in India later this year.

Zimbabwe, the host, are in Group A, along with the Netherlands, Nepal, the United States of America and the West Indies. Group B comprises Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

West Indies cricket has a rich history, but poor results continue to define the current generation. The fact that the West Indies are competing in the qualifying tournament is a poignant reminder of the state of our cricket.

Interestingly, this is not uncharted waters for them as they were beaten in the final of the 2018 edition of the same tournament by Afghanistan. Subsequently, there was a raft of changes in team personnel, captain, coaching staff and administration. We hope there is a change of fortune in results very soon.

We will not discuss the preceding series against the UAE since squad composition and context will vary considerably. Let us dive into a quick analysis of the recent form. There were some green shoots in their last major ODI series against South Africa, which ended 1-1. It must be noted that the team has not turned the proverbial corner after one good series. In fact, that argument does not hold water.

The positive energy is encouraging though, and it will gather momentum if they are able to build on the early success under the leadership of Shai Hope.

The batting position of the captain has recently become a talking point. Where should Shai Hope bat? That is the million-dollar question. Well, his rich vein of form as an opener answers that question for me. The torrent of runs that he has produced since moving to the top of the order makes a very compelling case for him to return there. Kyle Mayers should partner with him at the top, so maximising the power play overs will not be an issue. More importantly, the team needs to have a conversation regarding the sharing of wicketkeeping duties between Hope and former captain Nicholas Pooran. Hope’s threefold role will certainly be less taxing if this were to be implemented.

What are the keys to success for the Windies? A simple answer is unlocking their strengths while nullifying those of their opponents. On a more practical level, the West Indies have to ‘manufacture’ ways to rotate strikes throughout all phases of their innings. Boundary-hitting comes naturally to most of their batsmen, like a duck to water. Hence, they must learn to absorb pressure with judicious application and the requisite mental fortitude. This will allow them to turn the tide on the opposition at the right time.

In terms of playing against quality spin bowling, some of our batsmen are at sea. Notwithstanding the deficiencies against spin, Pooran, Hope, Mayers, Brandon King and Rovman Powell represent an overflow of batting talent. It has left an indelible impression on our minds. Our batting depth can be further maximised with the addition of the beleaguered pair of Shimron Hetmyer and Evin Lewis. Selectors, are you listening?

Alzarri Joseph and Akeal Hosein will have a crucial role to play with the ball. On a sad note, Gudakesh Motie has been ruled out of the tournament with an injury. He will be sorely missed given that conditions are expected to be favourable to the spinners. This probably makes Yannic Cariah a sure starter. Johnson Charles is a good replacement given his blistering form since returning to the side. Finding a bowler who is equally proficient during the power play and at the death is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The recall of Guyanese all-rounder Keemo Paul may ‘inject’ life into those phases of the game.

While his selection has been met with skepticism by some, I am elated with the appointment of Darren Sammy as our new white-ball head coach. Sammy has been a doyen of West Indies cricket in recent times and his captaincy credentials speak for themselves – winning two T20 World Cup titles.

Given that he is a contemporary cricketer lends itself to greater acquaintance with the cricketing ‘climate’ and familiarity with the current players.

Ultimately, Sammy’s motivational and leadership nous could go a long way in creating a winning culture.

The bigger picture is that the West Indies will need to stay afloat in the coming weeks. If they do not, the floodgates of public backlash will definitely reopen. They will need all hands on deck to conquer these incredibly determined teams. The entire region and diaspora wish the team smooth sailing in their bid to qualify for cricket’s showpiece event.

Sport Pulse and Sports Matters are fortnightly columns highlighting advances that impact Sports. We look forward to your continued readership.

Mr. Andy A. Spence is a cricket enthusiast who has been following the sport from a very tender age. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Language, Communication & Society and a MA in Linguistics, both at

The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. He can be contacted at andy.spence16@yahoo.com